So Very Uncool

The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.

Tumblr and Yahoo! are officially married

Over on the Yahoo! Tumblr (I didn’t know they had one but I guess it makes sense?) the acquisition has been announced. I like this part of the announcement:

“We promise not to screw it up.”

We’ll see about that. To recap, Yahoo! wants to power the ad network for Tumblr to reap the benefit of the eyeballs of the 18-24 year old market. The user experience of Twitter didn’t get better with promoted tweets, Facebook’s ads are largely ineffective because they end up being kind of creepy, and the only ads that seem to be truly useful are Google’s but that’s usually because you use them when you actively want to buy something. From a user perspective I don’t see how more ads will make Tumblr any more appealing to the end user than it is today.

The price of a free service to the end user is advertising. The price of a paid service to a service provider is fewer customers. As with many things, advertisers still pay more to a service than end users do.

What will Yahoo! do with Tumblr?

Yahoo! is (allegedly) courting Tumblr to the tune of $1.1 billion in cash.

Yay for David Karp. Yikes for users. Tumblr isn’t making all that much and those VC’s want a return on their investment. A sale to Yahoo! for over a billion in cash would be great for Tumblr’s investors. When Facebook paid a billion for Instagram, it kind of made sense. Facebook sees mobile as the future and it needed to ensure that a quickly growing social network would pose no threat. Yahoo! has no microblogging platform. Tumblr’s primary competitor (Posterous) is gone. Twitter trying to buy Tumblr would make more sense to me than Yahoo! buying Tumblr.

What’s in it for the users of Tumblr? What is Yahoo! doing today that would make me as a Tumblr user have a better experience than they do now? I believe in Marissa Mayer inasmuch that she probably has the best shot at plugging the holes in the sinking ship that is Yahoo! but simply buying up hot web real estate isn’t necessarily the best way to do that. For much of the last decade, that’s what Yahoo! did … buy “the next big thing” and then let it wither on the vine. Just for kicks, check out the Yahoo! acquisitions list on Wikipedia:

  • Zimbra
  • Flickr
  • Upcoming.org
  • Delicious
  • Oddpost
  • Konfabulator
  • Dialpad

If Google got your hackles raised with shutting down Google Reader, then Yahoo! is the guy who adopts homeless pets and then lets them die of starvation in their own filth. They don’t have a great track history. When Twitter bought Posterous for the relatively low cost of $10 million, it was an acqui-hire so they could integrate some of the talent into the Twitter team. It was obvious they didn’t care about keeping Posterous around and shut it down a year later. What would Yahoo! do with Tumblr? Obviously it would be idiotic to shut it down and no doubt the technology behind Tumblr isn’t so complicated that if Yahoo! wanted its own microblogging site it couldn’t just write one at far less of a cost, so what’s the angle? How will Yahoo! recoup that money? If Tumblr only brought in $13 million in 2012, how are they arriving at that $1.1 billion purchase price? If the intent is to take on Twitter, consider that Twitter is on target to hit $1 billion in revenue by 2016 having pulled in $260 million in 2012.

It’s still early in the Mayer era at Yahoo! and one can only hope that there is some master plan that makes more sense to Yahoo’s board than to a non-math loving layman like me.

 

Just a few small requests for WWDC

Justin Williams lays out everything Apple needs to introduce at WWDC to appease the Internet. Can’t say I disagree with any of them though here’s some of my favorites:

  • An update to iMessage that allows people to leave group chats.
  • Multiple people on FaceTime calls.
  • The ability to download Mac apps from your iPhone or iPad and have them show up on your Mac when you get home.
  • The ability to read your iBooks on your Mac.

And of course the #1 item …

  • A completely refreshed design language for iOS 7 that sheds the Forstall and oozes Ive.

 

Given how far iOS 7 must have been in the design phase before Forstall was ousted I do wonder how significantly different it will be from iOS 6. Apple doesn’t usually do massive changes in one fell swoop.

If there is one notable omission from this list is that Siri should be seriously overhauled. Google’s voice recognition runs circles around Siri and that’s simply inexcusable.

Does Google really need to fix Android fragmentation?

Google’s engineers say they want to fix fragmentation. While that’s a noble goal (and what good engineer wouldn’t want to fix that?) Google’s engineers can’t fix fragmentation. Not only that but Google as a company doesn’t seem to care about it because the average user doesn’t seem to care about it.

One avoids fragmentation by controlling the hardware and the software. Google paid $12.5 billion dollars for Motorola but makes the latest ‘Nexus experienced’ phone with Samsung … the only company making a profit with Android currently. Apparently they have no interest in being a hardware vendor. Google allows anyone to use Android for their tablets or phones and often the low-priced devices do not use hardware sufficient to run modern versions. Various handset makers release dozens of models of phones every year; once you’ve bought this year’s model they have no impetus to go back and certify new releases of Android on older hardware. They want to sell you a new phone … not support one that brings them no revenue. The carriers similarly have no incentive to keep updating your OS. The fragmentation problems on Android aren’t a technical problem for Google’s engineers to fix. It’s a business model decision. Fragmentation is the price Google pays to not have iOS be the dominant smartphone OS and to also completely neuter all competition in the mobile space that isn’t named Apple.

There are basically two types of customers in the US for mobile phones: those that want a powerful smartphone and those that do not care about having a smartphone at all. The ones that don’t care about that seem to be a larger market. You can’t really buy non-smartphones anymore. If you go into any carrier store in the US you have some iPhones, a whole lot of Android phones running the gamut from free to expensive, and in the corner a couple of Windows phones and maybe a BlackBerry. The users who care about low-cost will usually get a lower cost Android. They’re not familiar with terms like Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, or Jellybean. Most don’t have expensive data plans. The low-end Android phone has become the entry model phone for many users. These types of users won’t obsessively update the OS or whine about missing features. I have known people like this … they didn’t even surf the web using the phone’s browser. This is why Apple could still sell their 3GS for three years which is the equivalent of three lifetimes in the mobile phone market. The difference being that Apple continued to allow the 3GS to run the latest version of the operating system even if all features weren’t available on it.

When it comes to Android, Google’s relationship isn’t with the end user but with handset manufacturers whose relationships are with the carriers. Google can’t get updates to the end user because Google’s customers won’t offer it because it makes no financial sense for them to do it. Google’s primary revenue from Android comes from serving you ads by way of search engine searches or tracking your data through Google’s apps. Older versions of Android can do this just fine.

What is HBO GO missing?

As much as I love HBO GO, the fine folks over at The AV Club took the time to point out some notable omissions from the online site’s vast archives. As usual they do a great job pointing out things that are inexplicably missing. I grew up on HBO in the 80’s and 90’s and I don’t disagree with any of these choices: The Kids in the Hall, Tales from the Crypt, Mr. Show, the George Carlin specials, all the back episodes of stand-up comedy showcase One Night Stand … these are all great shows that should be on there. Some things they forgot: the animated adaptation of Spawn from 1997, 80’s anthology The Hitcher, The Chris Rock Show, Dennis Miller Live (and his comedy specials from the 80’s and 90’s), and even the old Not Necessarily the News. Also how can they leave the short-lived The Comeback off the list?? In 2010, they had the series In Treatment on there and since it was a five night a week show that ran for three seasons and 106 episodes it was tough to get through them all. I made it to season 2 and they pulled it from the site. Figures.

Making a movie by the numbers

If you have ever seen a movie trailer and thought “Hollywood is out of ideas” that’s because, well … it is. Meet the folks who have the enviable job of analyzing scripts to make them more palatable to wider audiences.

While it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback, it’s not hyperbole when I say at least half the trailers for upcoming movies leave me thinking “Who the hell would go see that?!??” which is funny because I won’t turn down a lowbrow movie and even I have a hard time figuring out who some of these movies are made for. Consider some of the biggest flops of 2012:

  • A Thousand Words – Dear Eddie Murphy: Please go back to being the foul-mouthed comic that we fell in love with instead of making garbage like this, Pluto Nash, Meet Dave, The Haunted Mansion, etc.
  • Rock of Ages – A night of karaoke would have been more fun than this.
  • That’s My Boy – If you’re Adam Sandler you already have enough money to last several lifetimes. If you’re going to make things no one will watch at least make more things like Punch-Drunk Love than humorless crap like this or Jack and Jill.
  • John Carter – It wasn’t terrible per se, just not worth the hundreds of millions the studio threw at it.

At least two of those films had hugely bankable stars (Sandler and Tom Cruise) and none of them were really high-concept films yet they all looked awful from their trailers.